Colorado cops fired over photos of chokehold used on Black man
AURORA, Colo. — Three officers were fired Friday over photos showing police reenact a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street in a Denver suburb.
One of those fired is Jason Rosenblatt, a white Aurora officer who helped stop McClain in August for wearing a ski mask and “being suspicious.” Police put McClain in a chokehold, paramedics injected him with a sedative and McClain suffered cardiac arrest before later being taken off life support.
Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told reporters that officers sent the photos to Rosenblatt and others two months after McClain died to “cheer up a friend,” without explaining who that was. Rosenblatt responded with a text saying, “Haha.” Officer Nathan Woodyard, who put McClain in a chokehold, also got the photos but he was not disciplined because he didn’t respond.
“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said. The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs are “a crime against humanity and decency,” she added.
McClain’s family, friends and community activists noted during a rally that justice was swifter for the mocking photograph than the use of force that led to McClain’s death. The two other officers who stopped the young man are still on the force as authorities look again into possible criminal charges after clearing them last year.
“Rosenblatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for murdering Elijah, but for making fun of Elijah,” said Terrence Roberts, a community organizer and family friend.
Officers Kyle Dittrich, Erica Marrero and Jaron Jones — none of whom confronted McClain in August — smiled and mockingly placed each other in a chokehold in the photos taken in October near a memorial for McClain.
An officer reported the photos to a sergeant late last month.
Rosenblatt, Dittrich and Marrero were fired for conduct unbecoming of an officer. Jones resigned earlier this week.
The Aurora Police Association called the investigation “a rush to judgment.”
The officers stopped McClain, a massage therapist, after a 911 call on Aug. 24 reported him as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask and flailing his arms. He begged them repeatedly to let go of him, at one point saying “you guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen,” according to body-camera video.
After the chokehold that cut off blood to his brain, paramedics administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm him down.
A prosecutor said he didn’t pursue criminal charges against the officers because a pathologist wasn’t able to determine if their actions caused McClain’s death.
This photo shows Aurora (Colorado) Police Department Officers Erica Marrero (from left), Jaron Jones and Kyle Dittrich. Jason Rosenblatt, one of three white officers who stopped Elijah McClain, has been fired after responding to photos showing colleagues reenacting the chokehold used on the Black man.